Quotes of Albert Einstein

Himself   |   The Universe   |   Education   |   Life   |   Religion   |   War and Peace

On Himself

"If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.  I get the most joy in life out of music."

"My life is a simple thing that would interest no one."

"It is a known fact that I was born and that is all that is necessary."

"As far as I'm concerned, I prefer silent vice to ostentatious virtue."

"When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge."

"When a blind beetle crawls over the surface of the globe, he doesn't realize that the track he has covered is curved. I was lucky enough to have spotted it."

"I have no particular talent. I am merely inquisitive."

"It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer."

"Nothing that I can do will change the structure of the universe. But maybe, by raising my voice, I can help in the greatest of all causes -- goodwill among men and peace on earth."

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world."

"If I had my life to live over again, I'd be a plumber."

"The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education."

"If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?"

"I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination."

"I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves - such an ethical basis I call more proper for a herd of swine."

"The ideals which have lighted me on my way and time after time given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been truth, goodness, and beauty."

"A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of others ."

"I want to know God's thoughts.  The rest are details."

"I never think of the future. It comes soon enough."

"Do not worry about your problems with mathematics, I assure you mine are far greater."

"Two things inspire me to awe -- the starry heavens above and the moral universe within."

"The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking.. the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker."

 

On The Universe

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

"The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible."

"A human being is part of the whole, called by us 'Universe,' a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest - a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness."

"This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty."

"Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation, and a foundation for inner security".

"Man tries to make for himself in the fashion that suits him best a simplified and intelligible picture of the world.  He then tries to some extent to substitute this cosmos of his for the world of experience, and thus to overcome it."

"This is what the painter, the poet, the speculative philosopher, and the natural scientists do, each in his own fashion.  Each makes this cosmos and its construction the pivot of his emotional life, in order to find in this way peace and security which he can not find in the narrow whirlpool of personal experience."

 

On Education

"One should guard against preaching to young people success in the customary form as the main aim in life. The most important motive for work in school and in life is pleasure in work, pleasure in its result, and the knowledge of the value of the result to the community."

"The example of great and pure individuals is the only thing that can lead us to noble thoughts and deeds."

"Never regard study as a duty, but as the enviable opportunity to learn to know the liberating influence of beauty in the realm of the spirit for your own personal joy and to the profit of the community to which your later work belongs."

"Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts."

"Teaching should be such that what is offered is perceived as a valuable gift and not as a hard duty ."

"Try not to become a man of success but rather to become a man of value."

"It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge."

"The point is to develop the childlike inclination for play and the childlike desire for recognition and to guide the child over to important fields for society. Such a school demands from the teacher that he be a kind of artist in his province."

"To me the worst thing seems to be a school principally to work with methods of fear, force and artificial authority. Such treatment destroys the sound sentiments, the sincerity and the self-confidence of pupils and produces a subservient subject."

"One had to cram all this stuff into one's mind for the examinations, whether one liked it or not. This coercion had such a deterring effect on me that, after I had passed the final examination, I found the consideration of any scientific problems distasteful to me for an entire year."

"The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources."

"The only source of knowledge is experience."

"The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.  We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift."

"We should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality."

"The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing."

"One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity."

"Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocre minds. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence."

"Whoever undertakes to set himself up as judge in the field of truth and knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the Gods."

"Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school."

 

On Life

"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."

"The devil has put a penalty on all things we enjoy in life. Either we suffer in health or we suffer in soul or we get fat."

"The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives."

"A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin; what else does a man need to be happy."

"Only a life lived for others is a life worth while ."

"A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of others."

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.
It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed."

"Gravitation can not be held responsible for people falling in love."

"Joy in looking and comprehending is nature's most beautiful gift."

"The intellect has little to do on the road to discovery. There comes a leap in consciousness, call it Intuition or what you will, the solution comes to you and you don't know how or why".

"The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax."

"Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age 18."

"Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts."

"If you are out to describe the truth, leave elegance to the tailor."

"Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new."

"If A equals success, then the formula is: A=X+Y+Z. X is work. Y is play. Z is keep your mouth shut."

"Perfection of means and confusion of ends seem to characterize our age."

"Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character."

"Only one who devotes himself to a cause with his whole strength and soul can be a true master. For this reason mastery demands all of a person."

"The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking."

"Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT'S relativity."

"Nothing truly valuable arises from ambition or from a mere sense of duty; it stems rather from love and devotion toward men and toward objective things."

"The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which he has attained liberation from the self."

"Too many of us look upon Americans as dollar chasers. This is a cruel libel, even if it is reiterated thoughtlessly by the Americans themselves."

"How on earth are you ever going to explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love?"

"One of the strongest motives that lead men to art and science is escape from everyday life with its painful crudity and hopeless dreariness, from the fetters of one's own ever-shifting desires. A finely tempered nature longs to escape from the personal life into the world of objective perception and thought."

"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one."

"The only real valuable thing is intuition."

"The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once."

"A person starts to live when he can live outside himself."

"Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character."

"The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility."

"Sometimes one pays most for the things one gets for nothing."

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."

"Science is a wonderful thing if one does not have to earn one's living at it."

"The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources."

"Those instrumental goods which should serve to maintain the life and health of all human beings should be produced by the least possible labor of all."

"The satisfaction of physical needs is indeed the indispensable precondition of a satisfactory existence, but in itself is not enough. In order to be content men must also have the possibility of developing their intellectual and artistic powers to whatever extent accord with their personal characteristics and abilities."

 

On Religion

"When the solution is simple, God is answering."

"God does not care about our mathematical difficulties. He integrates empirically."

"Intelligence makes clear to us the interrelationship of means and ends. But mere thinking cannot give us a sense of the ultimate and fundamental ends. To make clear these fundamental ends and valuations and to set them fast in the emotional life of the individual, seems to me precisely the most important function which religion has to form in the social life of man."

"Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions."

"All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom."

"The minority, the ruling class at present, has the schools and press, usually the Church as well, under its thumb. This enables it to organize and sway the emotions of the masses, and make its tool of them."

"True religion is real living; living with all one's soul, with all one's goodness and righteousness."

"The most important function of art and science is to awaken the cosmic religious feeling and keep it alive."

"I maintain that cosmic religiousness is the strongest and most noble driving force of scientific research."

"I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own -- a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotisms."

"The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. The religion which is based on experience, which refuses to be dogmatic. If there's any religion that would cope with scientific needs it will be Buddhism."

"Scientific research is based on the idea that everything that takes place is determined by laws of nature, and therefore this holds for the action of people. For this reason, a research scientist will hardly be inclined to believe that events could be influenced by a prayer, i.e. by a wish addressed to a Supernatural Being."

"Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."

"A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death."

"The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and
blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge."

"Whoever undertakes to set himself up as judge in the field of truth and knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the Gods."

"It is only to the individual that a soul is given."

"My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind."

"In order to be an immaculate member of a flock of sheep, one must above all be a sheep oneself."

"I cannot believe that God would choose to play dice with the universe."

"I am convinced that some political and social activities and practices of the Catholic organizations are detrimental and even dangerous for the community as a whole, here and everywhere. I mention here only the fight against birth control at a time when overpopulation in various countries has become a serious threat to the health of people and a grave obstacle to any attempt to organize peace on this planet."

"The devil has put a penalty on all things we enjoy in life. Either we suffer in health or we suffer in soul or we get fat."

"What I see in nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility. This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism."

"Intelligence makes clear to us the interrelationship of means and ends. But mere thinking cannot give us a sense of the ultimate and fundamental ends. To make clear these fundamental ends and valuations and to set them fast in the emotional life of the individual, seems to me precisely the most important function which religion has to form in the social life of man."

 

On War and Peace

"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction."

"An empty stomach is not a good political advisor."

"Nationalism is an infantile sickness. It is the measles of the human race."

"We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive."

"The release of atomic energy has not created a new problem. It has merely made more urgent the necessity of solving an existing one."

"Violence sometimes may have cleared away obstructions quickly, but it never has proved itself creative."

"Why does this applied science, which saves work and makes life easier, bring us so little happiness? The simple answer runs: Because we have not yet learned to make sensible use of it."

"The discovery of nuclear chain reactions need not bring about the destruction of mankind any more than did the discovery of matches. We only must do everything in our power to safeguard against its abuse. Only a supranational organization, equipped with a sufficiently strong executive power, can protect us."

"He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would fully suffice. This
disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, senseless brutality, deplorable love-of-country stance, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action! It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder."

A Prayer for Understanding
"Oh, great Father, never let me judge another man until
I have walked in his moccasins for two weeks.  Peace cannot be kept by force, it can only be kept by understanding."

"Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding."

"Mankind's desire for peace can be realized only by the creation of a world government."

"Every thoughtful, well-meaning and conscientious human being
should assume in time of peace, the solemn and unconditional obligation not to participate in any war, for any reason or to lend support of any kind, whether direct or indirect."

"The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything
save our modes of thinking, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe."

"Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal."

"Nor do I take into account a danger of starting a chain reaction of a scope great enough to destroy part or all of the planet...But it is not necessary to imagine the earth being destroyed like a nova by a stellar explosion to understand vividly the growing scope of atomic war and to recognize that unless another war is prevented it is likely to bring destruction on a scale never before held possible, and even now hardly conceived, and that little civilization would survive it."

"The real problem is in the hearts and minds of men. It is easier to denature plutonium than to denature the evil spirit of man."

Force always attracts men of low morality, and I believe it to be an invariable rule that tyrants of genius are succeeded by scoundrels."

As long as armies exist, any serious conflict will lead to war.

It is characteristic of the military mentality that non-human factors are held essential, while the human being, his desires and thoughts, are considered as unimportant and secondary.

You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war.

To concentrate on the problems and aspirations which all thinking men share creates a sense of comradeship that is eventually bound to reunite scholars and artists of all nations.

Warfare cannot be humanized. It can only be abolished.

"The pioneers of a warless world are the youth who refuse military service."

"A large part of history is replete with the struggle for human rights, an eternal struggle in which final history can never be won. But to tire in that struggle would mean the ruin of society."

"Only understanding for our neighbors, justice in our dealings, and willingness to help our fellow men can give human society permanence and assure security for the individual."

"Since I do not foresee that atomic energy is to be a great boon for a long time, I have to say that for the present it is a menace. Perhaps it is well that it should be. It many intimidate the human race into bringing order into it's international affairs, which without the pressure of fear, it would not do."

"We scientists, whose tragic destination has been to help in making the methods of annihilation more gruesome and more effective, must consider it our solemn and transcendent duty to do all in our power in preventing these weapons from being used for the brutal purpose for which they were invented. What task could possibly be more important to us? What social aim could be closer to our hearts? Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust; we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper."

"The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them."

"Politics is a pendulum whose swings between anarchy and tyranny are fueled by perpetually rejuvenated illusions."

"Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism -- how passionately I hate them!"

"Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts."

When Einstein died on April 18, 1955 he left a piece of writing ending in an unfinished sentence. These were his last words:

In essence, the conflict that exists today is no more than an old-style struggle for power, once again presented to mankind in semireligious trappings. The difference is that, this time, the development of atomic power has imbued the struggle with a ghostly character; for both parties know and admit that, should the quarrel deteriorate into actual war, mankind is doomed. Despite this knowledge, statesmen in responsible positions on both sides continue to employ the well-known technique of seeking to intimidate and demoralize the opponent by marshaling superior military strength. They do so even though such a policy entails the risk of war and doom. Not one statesman in a position of responsibility has dared to pursue the only course that holds out any promise of peace, the course of supranational security, since for a statesman to follow such a course would be tantamount to political suicide. Political passions, once they have been fanned into flame, exact their victims...